A new study shows that World Trade Center (WTC) responders suffer from asthma at more than twice the rate of the general US population as a result of their exposure to the toxic dust from the collapse of the WTC towers in 2001. The current findings appear in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine. Preliminary study results previously appeared in CHEST in 2009.

While past studies have documented high rates of asthma symptoms among WTC responders, a comparison of these increased rates of asthma among responders to the general population has never been done before. This current study is the first to do so.

The study population consisted of a prospective cohort of 20,834 responders who received medical screenings from July 2002 to December 2007 at the WTC Medical Monitoring and Treatment Program. Researchers compared the results with the US National Health Survey Interviews adult sample data for the years 2000, and 2002 to 2007.

Among the study population, 86% of the participants were men and the average duration of work at the WTC sites was 80 days. In addition, 42% of the study participants were uniformed and other law enforcement and protective service workers. Other occupations of responders included construction workers, installation, maintenance, and repair workers, along with transportation and material moving workers.

When looking at asthma symptoms and attacks that have occurred in the past 12 months, researchers found that 6.3% of WTC responders reported asthma symptoms or attacks, while only 3.7% of the US general population reported asthma symptoms or attacks. The asthma rates remained stable among the general population during the entire period, but there were large increases in 12-month asthma rates among WTC responders from 2000 to 2005. When comparing rates of WTC responders in 2000 (1-year before 9/11) to 2005, the 12-month asthma rate increased by 40 times. Furthermore, when comparing 2002 (1-year after 9/11) to 2005, the 12-month asthma rate doubled among WTC responders.

The findings, according to the study’s authors, reinforce the fact that continued surveillance of this population is needed to avoid permanent lung damage and other illness.

Source: North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System